During my few days visiting Mount Cook, I took the opportunity to do a lot of hiking in the valley. The hike that interested me most was the climb to the Mueller Hut, 1800m above sea level. I was thinking of spending the night there and going back down the next day. Alas, the hike being quite known, it was necessary to reserve its place in the hut and when I did it all the beds were reserved! So, I was ready to camp next to the hut. So I went to the information center in the little village of Mt Cook to find out. Yes it is possible to camp but the ground being filled with pebbles or snow, it could be rather unpleasant. Moreover, the night I wanted to camp, big gusts of wind and probably rain were supposed to get up, making the conditions for camping really not ideal.
So it was not really possible for me to spend the night in the Mueller Hut (or in tent). Greatly disappointed, I still decided to go hiking for the day. The ascent to the hut taking only about 3 hours, it is perfectly possible to go up and down on a day.
Day 1. March 2017 | Reaching Mueller Hut
I leave the Glentanner campsite hitchhiking to Mt Cook village. A German lady takes me in her campervan. She too decided to hike the Mueller Hut track today! She drops me off at the parking lot and invites me to start before her. She must equip herself. I attack the climb and make a small detour to see Kea Point. The observation point allows a nice view of the moraine wall of the Mueller glacier. The wall is impressive. The impact of global warming is obvious. The glacier has shrunk tremendously over the years. In the background I see the glacier and Lake Hooker. He too has shrunk a lot. The water in the lakes is an impressive milky blue / white.
The path continues via the Sealy Track, a climb of 2200 steps to reach the Sealy Tarn, a small lake at about 600m altitude. The stairs rise abruptly following the mountain. God it’s hard! Full of irregular steps that never end under a blazing sun, it’s painful. Especially for my knees a little damaged by my last days on a bike. On the other hand, the landscape is splendid. The different valleys are gradually revealing themselves and I realize the full extent of the beauty of the place.
I arrive at the Sealy Tarn, a small waterhole where I take a short break before continuing on the Mueller Track. The trail is less marked and climbs through the mountain. The soil goes from clumps of grass to large stones and scree. The landscape is almost lunar. In the background, the Murchison Glacier makes strange sounds. The snow crackles under the effect of the heat. Several booms are heard regularly; small avalanches occur. I spot several. By far, their size seems very small but the sound associated with the echo is impressive. Whenever the mountain goes down, I become aware of its power and its dangerousness.
Once at the crest, the trail runs along it until a small circus where the hut appears all dressed in red. The refuge instantly appeals to me. Its architecture combined with its color make the building very aesthetic and fits perfectly with the surrounding landscape.
The Mueller Hut I’m looking at is the fifth building to bear this name. The previous four were destroyed by bad weather or were located on unstable ground. The mountain soil in the region is mainly made up of rocks consisting of sands, mud and silts welded together by pressure and heat and then bent, fractured by the intense geological activity that agitates the region. Because of this, finding a sustainable location for a shelter is quite difficult. The last version of the hut dates from 2003.
The area is really beautiful. I go around the circus and see several locations for tents! People removed the big stones from the ground to make it flat and built small walls around the sites to protect themselves from the wind! What a disappointment, I could have camped without problems! But it’s too late, I did not take my tent with me. Pretty disappointed by all the photographic possibilities that I will probably miss (the place being a beautiful setting for night photos and stars), I try nevertheless to enjoy my time while I am there.
I spend three good hours resting and enjoying the scenery. Then around 4pm I go down again. The descent to the Sealy Tarn is quite slow, the slope is steep. The sun slowly descends into the sky, making the brightness more warm. I go down the 2200 stairs without hurry enjoying the magnificence of the landscape.
Back at the parking, I hitchhike again to go back to the campsite. An English couple take me with them in their gigantic motorhome. My disappointment of not being able to camp on the summits is still present but I am nevertheless very happy with my hike. Even if it is quite short, it is a walk not to be missed. If one day I come back to New Zealand, I think I’ll come back here to go camping in the circus next to the Mueller Hut!
Note: The next day, I woke up at Glentanner Campground in the valley under particularly strong gusts of wind. As a result, it gave me a little comfort in not having been able to spend the night in a tent in the circus; I probably would have been very cold. em>
Summary : The Mueller Hut Track is a hike located in Mt. Cook / Aoraki National Park in the Canterbury region.
Location : South Island. Departure is from Car Park at White Horse Hill Campground 1 km from Mt Cook Village.
Duration : The climb is done in about 4 hours. You can decide to spend the night in the hut or camp (which I recommend) and go down the next day.
Distance : 1800 meters uphill on a steep slope.
Hiking Stories is a love letter to nature, walking and camping. And all that entails: capricious weather, aches and noisy tourists on the trails.
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